Breakfast was laid out in the dining room with plates filled with Claudette’s exquisite pancakes. Uncle John smiled at them from over his newspaper depicting the new restrictions as Brunhilde presented them with their fill of pancakes and toast. Her smile was tired and her eyes said the very same thing but there was something in her posture that displayed her relief. The children believed it was because she hadn’t found a note and all silently thanked Euripides for coming to them first. After having devoured their breakfast in record time and with maple syrup running down their chins, they thanked everyone for the breakfast and headed towards the kitchen with the excuse of going to thank Claudette for the meal. They had planned before that they would try to interview her whenever a golden opportunity arrived. They even had the shining syrup on themselves and a good timing, this was perfect.
Claudette was a very good friend of theirs but she had always been particular about people coming into her kitchen when she was cooking so Edward knocked on the door three times to let her know it was them. She opened with a big smile:
“Children! Welcome to my humble kitchen!”
She always started like this as if it were a kind of ritual. To this the children always responded:
“Hail Queen of the Kitchen, Leader of the Chefs! We are sorry to trespass on your admirable hospitality!”
The cook winked at them and ushered them into her kitchen. With a conspiracy smile, she handed them each a freshly baked cookie. Treats and cakes seemed to grow in her domain for there was always something delicious to be eaten. She was a magnificent cook and was most famous for her millionaire shortbread which she produced at least once a week if not more.
“Hello, Claudette! We came to ask you some questions!” started Michael, cookie crumbs spraying from his mouth
“Is that so? Mind the bits of cookies that are falling! I’m sure you want to eat the whole thing and I’d rather they didn’t end up on the clean floor of my clean kitchen.”
Michael apologised hastily but she smile and winked again,
“I was joking of course. You are most welcome to destroy my kitchen and I will still be your friend. What did you want to ask me?”
“We are making a project for school called ‘A Day in the Life at Dandelion Estate’. We started it last week Wednesday so we are making a time table of that particular day. What did you do that day?”
“A project did you say? Extra work? That is very unlike you! However, it is my duty as a hostess to answer your questions. Let me see… Wednesday you said? Well, nothing much happened on that day.”
“What can you remember doing between eleven and two
o’clock?” tried Ivy.
“Oh! That was the day I baked that triple batch of millionaire shortbreads! Yes. As well as making those, I had to make lunch so that took me all day.”
“So you were in the kitchen the whole time?”
“No, I think I went out for a walk,” her face scrunched up in an effort to remember, “Yes that’s it.”
“What time?” asked Michael.
“Why is that important?” she asked.
Kate swifty but imperceptibly nudged Michael with her foot, reminding him to be careful.
“Well, we have to make sure it’s as detailed as possible and we want to know how long your break is. To make sure we don’t tell them you don’t have a break.”
“Oh! You don’t want to appear as torturing me with work! I understand!” she winked, then said, “I think it was from 2.15 to 3.00.”
“Thank you so much! We’ll throw in a good note on your excellent cooking!” said Ivy.
“I expect you will. If I see that happening then I’ll bake an
extra batch of muffins for Edward’s birthday!”
They left Claudette to her cooking and went to the girl’s room to order everything they had discovered. They were creeping up the stairs trying to be as inconspicuous as possible when a voice called to them. It was their dad. It felt like ages ago since they had properly looked at his face. He was cleanly shaved which was uncommon considering he was always in a rush to get to work in the morning and his eyes had the joke-y sparkle that usually featured in Finlay’s eyes. Luckily, the puns still hadn’t appeared in his everyday vocabulary. He seemed to ha
ve heard their previous thought as he said:
“It feels like I haven’t seen you since the first day of lockdown! What have you been doing?” he asked curiously.
“We’ve been making a project for school!” said Michael, his pride looking very convincing, “‘It’s about ‘A Day in the Life of Dandelion Estate’!”
“That sounds cool! Am I allowed to see it?”
“No. It’s not ready yet. But can we ask you some questions?” asked Laura, fidgeting with her hair.
“It has to be precise,” added Ivy, “So we started on Wednesday and we have to make a timeline of that day.”
“Wednesday? Why Wednesday? I’m sorry kids. I’ll talk to you later,” he stammered, “My phone is ringing and I’m waiting for an important phone call from my boss.” With that, he rushed off, leaving the children with rising suspicions none of them wanted to voice out loud.
When they entered the room, they set up their meeting and spread out their information. As Laura read out her information which s
he had written previously and opened the floor for conversation, Kate wondered out loud,
“It feels like the possibility of finding the blackmailer has reduced by half if not three-quarters.”
“I know,” replied Edward, “But we’ve started. We might as well continue. Also, we have to stop whoever’s doing this.”
“It could become dangerous. This is our last chance to stop,” countered Kate, half-heartedly as, as much as she wanted to help her aunt, she kept picturing horrifying pictures of what could happen. As the oldest, she felt responsible for siblings and if anything ever happened to them through this, she would never forgive herself.
“Well I don’t feel like taking it,” answered Laura, around
her, the three younger siblings nodded their agreement. Laura smiled at her sister, concluding the debate as she spoke again:
“I think we should interview Uncle John next. We’
ve tried Dad already and… it didn’t work very well. Aunt Brunhilde we should keep until it’s inevitable and Mum might have the same reaction as Dad. What do you think?”
“I agree,” piped up Ivy, “We should make a list of questions. Can you write them down please?”
Laura opened a fresh page and wrote at the top: Uncle Jo
hn. After a lengthy discussion, they all finally settled on a list of questions.
He is married to Aunt Brunhilde who inherited Dandelion Estate. He has been there for fifteen years now and does not work.
Does he know anything about Grandfather?
Has he seen anyone sneaking around?
What was he doing that day?
They had agreed that Uncle John could be ruled out. His timings and the fact that he did not work for Brunhilde made him clearly not a suspect. However, they also decided to interview him in case he had seen anything suspicious or knew something more. They had to be very careful though as their uncle knew about the blackmailer and they could not let him know they were investigating or it would be likely that they would be refrained from continuing. They were about to conclude the meeting to go find him when Ivy gave a small stifled gasp.
“What is it?” asked Michael.
“We’ve forgotten something,” she whispered, her face as white as the bedsheets. She turned slowly to face the rest of the group.
“How did the blackmailer get into our aunt’s room? The door is always locked normally.”